Step-By-Step Guide for Upgrading to Windows 7

Make sure you don't miss anything before making the jump

If you're one of those people who like to stick with the technology that you know, rather than always having the newest and latest high-tech programs and operating systems, you may want to upgrade to an older version of Windows that you feel more comfortable using.

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As of January 2020, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

Another scenario for upgrading to Windows 7 may be that you're simply behind in updating your operating system and want to take baby steps to do it. In this case, you may opt to upgrade an outdated version of Windows, such as XP or Windows Vista PC, to a Windows 7 operating system (OS).

Steps for Upgrading

Before diving headfirst into an upgrade, do these things first:

XP users need to be aware that they can't do an "in-place" upgrade to Windows 7; that is, they can't leave XP on their machine and install Windows 7 over it, as Vista users can. Upgrading for XP users means eradicating the old OS and installing a fresh copy of Windows 7.

  • Use the Upgrade Advisor. Microsoft's free Upgrade Advisor is an essential tool to download and install before upgrading to Windows 7. The Upgrade Advisor tell you which steps you need to take before upgrading, including whether your computer meets the hardware specs necessary for Windows 7 (things like processors, memory and graphics cards); what new drivers you'll need; and if you have programs that aren't compatible.

Before running the Upgrade advisor, plug in any peripherals such as printers, USB drives and mp3 players. That way, the Upgrade Advisor can scan those devices and see how well they'll work with Windows 7 and let you know if you need updated drivers for them.

  • Back up your hard drive. This is the most important step you can take. Upgrades, although typically successful, are no sure thing. It is essential that you back up your documents, pictures, videos—anything that you don't want lost—to an external hard drive, thumb drive or USB drive, or some online service such as Windows Live SkyDrive. That way, if the worst happens, you don't need to panic.
  • Get a DVD rather than a downloaded copy. You'll definitely want a full DVD copy of Windows 7 rather than downloading a copy from the internet and using that to upgrade. If your upgrade goes wrong or you need to reinstall the OS at a future date for some reason, you'll be out of luck unless you have the DVD. Keep it in a safe place that you won't forget.
  • Don't use a pirated copy. This may be obvious, but it still needs to be said: the money you save by using an illegal, free copy will not be worth the expense in the end. Pirated copies are not eligible for upgrades, fixes, and patches, and when something goes wrong with your copy of Windows 7, you won't be able to get any help from Microsoft.
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